Caretta caretta - (Linnaeus, 1758)
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Other English Common Names: Loggerhead, Loggerhead Turtle, loggerhead sea turtle
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758) (TSN 173830)
French Common Names: tortue caouanne
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105239
Element Code: ARAAA01010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Turtles
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Chelonia Cryptodeira Cheloniidae Caretta
Genus Size: A - Monotypic genus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: King, F. W., and R. L. Burke, editors. 1989. Crocodilian, tuatara, and turtle species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Association of Systematics Collections, Washington, D.C. 216 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B89KIN01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Caretta caretta
Taxonomic Comments: See Dodd (1988) for a discussion of taxonomy. Dodd (1988, 1990) recommended that subspecies not be recognized. Accordingly, Crother (2012) and Turtle Taxonomy Working Group (2012) recognized no subspecies.

MtDNA data from major nesting populations in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans and the Mediterranean Sea indicate that most breeding colonies have diagnostic genetic characteristics, indicating strong natal homing by nesting females (Bowen et al. 1994). Two major matrilines were identified, and each occurred in both Atlantic-Mediterranean and Indian-Pacific samples. This was attributed to recent interoceanic gene flow, probably mediated by the ability of this turtle to utilize habitats around southern Africa.

Crother et al. (2008) has returned to the use of "sea turtles" (rather than "seaturtles") as part of the standard English name for marine turtles. The combined name has not been used recently in the literature.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 19Feb2014
Global Status Last Changed: 21Oct1996
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Wide distribution and not uncommon in warm oceans and seas; many nesting sites are protected, though perhaps not adequately; subject to many threats that land conservation alone cannot solve.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3B (21Oct1996)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (S1), California (SNR), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), Florida (S3), Georgia (S2), Louisiana (S1B,S3N), Maine (SNR), Maryland (S1B,S1N), Massachusetts (S1N), Mississippi (S1B), New Jersey (S1), New York (S1N), North Carolina (S3B,S3N), Oregon (SNA), Rhode Island (SNR), South Carolina (S3), Texas (S4), Virginia (S1B,S1N)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE, LT: Listed endangered, listed threatened (22Sep2011)
Comments on USESA: As of September 2014, the NMFS status of the loggerhead turtle are as follows:

ESA Threatened- 4 "distinct population segments"
Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS
South Atlantic Ocean DPS
Southeast Indo-Pacific Ocean DPS
Southwest Indian Ocean DPS

ESA Endangered- 5 "distinct population segments"
Northeast Atlantic Ocean DPS
Mediterranean Sea DPS
North Indian Ocean DPS
North Pacific Ocean DPS
South Pacific Ocean DPS

As of September 2014, The FWS is currently monitoring the following populations of the Loggerhead sea turtle:

Population location: South Pacific Ocean DPS - Loggerhead sea turtles originating from the South Pacific Ocean west of 67? W. Long., and east of 141? E. Long.
Listing status: Endangered

Population location: Northeast Atlantic Ocean DPS - Loggerhead sea turtles originating from the Northeast Atlantic Ocean north of the equator, south of 60? N. Lat., and east of 40? W. Long., except in the vicinity of the Strait of Gibraltar where the eastern boundary is 5?36′ W. Long
Listing status: Endangered

Population location: North Indian Ocean DPS - Loggerhead sea turtles originating from the North Indian Ocean north of the equator and south of 30? N. Lat
Listing status: Endangered

Population location: Mediterranean Sea DPS - Loggerhead sea turtles originating from the Mediterranean Sea east of 5?36′ W. Long.
Listing status: Endangered

Population location: North Pacific Ocean DPS - Loggerhead sea turtles originating from the North Pacific north of the equator and south of 60 N. Lat
Listing status: Endangered
States/US Territories in which this population is known to or is believed to occur: Oregon

Population location: Southwest Indian Ocean DPS - Loggerhead sea turtles originating from the Southwest Indian Ocean west of 80? E. Long. and east of 20? E. Long.
Listing status: Threatened

Population location: Southeast Indo-Pacific Ocean DPS - Loggerhead sea turtles originating from the Southeast Indian Ocean east of 80? E. Long. and from the South Pacific Ocean west of 141? E. Long.
Listing status: Threatened

Population location: South Atlantic Ocean DPS - Loggerhead sea turtles originating from the South Atlantic Ocean west of 20? E. Long. and east of 67? W. Long.
Listing status: Threatened

Population location: Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS - Loggerhead sea turtles originating from the Northwest Atlantic Ocean west of 40 W. Long
Listing status: Threatened
States/US Territories in which this population is known to or is believed to occur: Alabama , Florida , Georgia , Louisiana , Mississippi , North Carolina , South Carolina , Texas , Virginia

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R2 - Southwest
IUCN Red List Category: EN - Endangered
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix I

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Warmer parts of Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, and Mediterranean (Bolten et al. 1992) and Caribbean seas. Ranges into temperate zones in summer. Rare or absent far from mainland shores. Major nesting areas are in temperate and subtropical areas in the southeastern U.S., Mexico, Oman, Australia, South Africa, the Mediterranean, and Japan (Dodd 1992). The world's largest nesting aggregation (30,000 nesting females/year) is on Masirah Island, Oman. Nesting range in the U.S. is mainly the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to southern Florida (Shoop 1985, Dodd 1988), with about 90% in Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward counties, Florida (CSTC 1990); this is a major nesting area from a global perspective; Indian River and Brevard counties contain the second densest aggregations of nesting loggerheads in the world (about 6000-15,000 females nesting/year). Large numbers occur off primary nesting beaches in Florida during spring and summer (CSTC 1990). Nesting also occurs along Florida's Gulf Coast. Nests regularly in small numbers in Virginia and sometimes north to New Jersey. In recent years a few have nested on barrier islands along the Texas coast. Chesapeake Bay is an important habitat for subadults in summer. Occurs in summer in waters off the northeastern U.S., mainly between Long Island and Cape Hatteras, usually in water less than 60 m deep (Shopp and Kenney 1992). See Seminoff et al. (2004) for information on occurrence in the Gulf of California. See Dodd (1988, 1990) for further details.

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Represented by many occurrences throughout much of the range. Exact number not known, depends somewhat on partly subjective determination of EO-boundaries. There are at least two dozen major nesting areas worldwide (Dodd 1990).

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total population is perhaps 100,000 adult females (extrapolated from Dodd 1988). Aerial beach surveys indicated that about 14,150 females nested in the southeastern U.S. in 1983 (CSTC 1990). More recent estimates are similar. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 clutches are deposited each year in the southeastern United States (Meylan et al. 1995). An estimated minimum of 2200-11,000 individuals occur in summer in waters off the northeastern U.S. (Shoop and Kenney 1992).

At least five different subpopulations have been identified in the western North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, with nesting abundance as follows (see NMFS 2002): (1) A Northern nesting subpopulation, occurring from North Carolina to northeast Florida at about 29 degrees N (about 7,500 nests in 1998); (2) a South Florida nesting subpopulation, occurring from 29 degrees N on the east coast to Sarasota on the west coast (approximately 83,400 nests in 1998); (3) a Florida Panhandle nesting subpopulation, occurring at Eglin Air Force Base and the beaches near Panama City, Florida (approximately 1,200 nests in 1998); (4) a Yucatan nesting subpopulation, occurring on the eastern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico (approximately 1,000 nests in 1998); and (5) a Dry Tortugas nesting subpopulation, occurring in the islands of the Dry Tortugas, near Key West, Florida (approximately 200 nests per year) (see NMFS 2002).

Overall Threat Impact: Very high - high
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Threatened through direct exploitation for food (including eggs) and curio materials, incidental take (chiefly by drowning in shrimp trawls), and by habitat degradation, including beach development, beachfront lighting (Peters and Verhoeven 1994, Salmon and Witherington 1995), ocean pollution (including marine debris, which may be ingested), and dredging (direct kills and injuries). Beach armoring, including sea walls, rock revetments, riprap, sandbag installation, groins, and jetties, can result in loss of nesting beaches due to accelerated erosion, prevention of natural beach and dune accretion, and interference with females attempting to reach suitable nesting sites. Beach cleaning operations can destroy nests or produce tire ruts that inhabitat movement of hatchlings to sea. The effect of beach restoration may depend on sand type used and subsequent management. Additional threats include predation and/or trampling of eggs and young by raccoons and feral mammals, trampling/crushing of eggs or young by vehicles or human pedestrians, deaths caused by collisions with boats (e.g., in southeastern and southern Florida and shallow coastal bays of the Gulf of Mexico) and intentional attacks by humans (fishermen) (Mitchell 1991). Long-term threats include sea level rise which, coupled with inland urbanization, may reduce available nesting beaches. Since sexual differentiation depends on incubation temperature, there is concern that global warming may result in an imbalance in the sex ratio (Mrosovsky and Provancha 1989). Annual mortality due to drowning in shrimp nets has been estimated at 5000-50,000 in the southeastern U.S.; an additional 550-5500 may die each year from other human activities (CSTC 1990). The fall bottom fishery and black drum fishery may be having adverse effects on loggerheads that use Chesapeake Bay (Mitchell 1991). Susceptible to entanglement and drowning in pound net hedging in Chesapeake Bay (Lutcavage and Musick 1985). In Georgia, predation by the imported fire ant may be a serious threat to eggs and hatchlings (Moulis 1997). See USFWS (1998) for detailed information on certain threats, including beach erosion, beach armoring, beach nourishment, artificial lighting, beach cleaning, increased human presence, recreational beach equipment, exotic dune and beach vegetation, nest loss to abiotic factors, predation, and poaching.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: Although natural population fluctuations may occur, numbers appear to be declining in some areas because of habitat destruction and incidental take. Overall, the nesting population in the southeastern U.S. is believed to be declining (CSTC 1990, Taylor 1992).
The northern subpopulation in the western North Atlantic has declined dramatically over the past 20 years. Nesting trends at Cape Island, South Carolina, and Little Cumberland Island, Georgia, nesting beaches that have been consistently surveyed since the early 1970s: from 1973 to 1995, nesting at Cape Island declined on average 3.2 percent per year, and from 1964 to 1995, Little Cumberland nesting activity declined at 2.6 percent per year (see NMFS 2002, Jenkins 2002).

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow to narrow.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Identify important non-nesting habitats (foraging, development, wintering).

Protection Needs: Restrict human presence on and degradation of nesting beaches and adjacent land and water. Use of TEDs (turtle excluder devices) needs to be mandatory on shrimping vessels from all countries. Beachfront lighting should be banned or converted to turtle-insensitive wavelengths. Take immediate steps to reduce global warming and sea level rise.

See "Recovery plan for U.S. Pacific populations of the loggerhead turtle (CARETTA CARETTA)" (draft document was available from National Marine Fisheries Service, Silver Spring, Maryland, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon, in 1995).

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Warmer parts of Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, and Mediterranean (Bolten et al. 1992) and Caribbean seas. Ranges into temperate zones in summer. Rare or absent far from mainland shores. Major nesting areas are in temperate and subtropical areas in the southeastern U.S., Mexico, Oman, Australia, South Africa, the Mediterranean, and Japan (Dodd 1992). The world's largest nesting aggregation (30,000 nesting females/year) is on Masirah Island, Oman. Nesting range in the U.S. is mainly the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to southern Florida (Shoop 1985, Dodd 1988), with about 90% in Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward counties, Florida (CSTC 1990); this is a major nesting area from a global perspective; Indian River and Brevard counties contain the second densest aggregations of nesting loggerheads in the world (about 6000-15,000 females nesting/year). Large numbers occur off primary nesting beaches in Florida during spring and summer (CSTC 1990). Nesting also occurs along Florida's Gulf Coast. Nests regularly in small numbers in Virginia and sometimes north to New Jersey. In recent years a few have nested on barrier islands along the Texas coast. Chesapeake Bay is an important habitat for subadults in summer. Occurs in summer in waters off the northeastern U.S., mainly between Long Island and Cape Hatteras, usually in water less than 60 m deep (Shopp and Kenney 1992). See Seminoff et al. (2004) for information on occurrence in the Gulf of California. See Dodd (1988, 1990) for further details.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, LA, MA, MD, ME, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OR, RI, SC, TX, VA

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Fairfield (09001), New Haven (09009), New London (09011)
FL Bay (12005), Brevard (12009), Broward (12011), Charlotte (12015), Collier (12021), Duval (12031), Escambia (12033), Flagler (12035), Franklin (12037), Gulf (12045), Hillsborough (12057), Indian River (12061), Lee (12071), Manatee (12081), Martin (12085), Miami-Dade (12086), Monroe (12087), Nassau (12089), Okaloosa (12091), Palm Beach (12099), Pasco (12101), Pinellas (12103), Santa Rosa (12113), Sarasota (12115), St. Johns (12109), St. Lucie (12111), Volusia (12127), Walton (12131)
GA Camden (13039), Chatham (13051), Liberty (13179), Mcintosh (13191)
LA St. Bernard (22087)
MD Worcester (24047)
NC Brunswick (37019), Carteret (37031), Currituck (37053), Dare (37055), Hyde (37095), New Hanover (37129), Onslow (37133), Pender (37141)
NJ Cape May (34009), Ocean (34029), Salem (34033)
SC Beaufort (45013), Charleston (45019), Colleton (45029), Georgetown (45043), Horry (45051)
TX Kenedy (48261), Kleberg (48273), Matagorda (48321), Nueces (48355), Willacy (48489)
VA Accomack (51001), Virginia Beach (City) (51810)
WA Grays Harbor (53027)+
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+, Long Island Sound (02030203)+, Delaware Bay (02040204)+, Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Broadkill-Smyrna (02040207)+, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+, Chincoteague (02040303)+, Eastern Lower Delmarva (02040304)+
03 Albemarle (03010205)+, Pamlico Sound (03020105)+, Lower Neuse (03020204)+, White Oak River (03020301)+, New River (03020302)+, Lower Cape Fear (03030005)+, Carolina Coastal-Sampit (03040207)+, Coastal Carolina (03040208)+, Santee (03050112)+, South Carolina Coastal (03050202)+, Four Hole Swamp (03050206)+, Salkehatchie (03050207)+, Broad-St. Helena (03050208)+, Bulls Bay (03050209)+, St. Helena Island (03050210)+, Calibogue Sound-Wright River (03060110)+, Ogeechee Coastal (03060204)+, Cumberland-St. Simons (03070203)+, Nassau (03070205)+, Lower St. Johns (03080103)+, Daytona - St. Augustine (03080201)+, Cape Canaveral (03080202)+, Vero Beach (03080203)+, Everglades (03090202)+, Florida Bay-Florida Keys (03090203)+, Big Cypress Swamp (03090204)+, Florida Southeast Coast (03090206)+, Charlotte Harbor (03100103)+, Sarasota Bay (03100201)+, Tampa Bay (03100206)+, Crystal-Pithlachascotee (03100207)+, Lower Ochlockonee (03120003)+, New (03130013)+, Apalachicola Bay (03130014)+, St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays (03140101)+, Choctawhatchee Bay (03140102)+, Pensacola Bay (03140105)+, Perdido Bay (03140107)+
08 Eastern Louisiana Coastal (08090203)+
12 Central Matagorda Bay (12100401)+, West Matagorda Bay (12100402)+, South Corpus Christi Bay (12110202)+, North Laguna Madre (12110203)+, Central Laguna Madre (12110207)+, South Laguna Madre (12110208)+
17 Queets-Quinault (17100102), Willapa Bay (17100106)
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Loggerhead, Cheloniidae
General Description: A reddish-brown sea turtle with a relatively large head; 5 or more costals (pleurals) on each side of the carapace; first costal always touches the nuchal; three (usually) or 4 large poreless scutes on bridge between shells; middorsal keel becomes inconspicuous in large individuals; limbs are flattened flippers; tail of adult male (extends past tips of back-streteched hind flippers) is much longer than that of adult female (barely reaches rear edge of carapace); young are brown or reddish-brown dorsally and have 3 dorsal keels and 2 plastral keels; adult carapace length usually 70-125 cm (to 122+ cm), mass 70-180 kg (to 227+ kg); hatchling shell length is 4-5 cm, mass about 20 g (Dodd 1988, 1992; Conant and Collins 1991).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from ridleys in larger size (ridley maximum shell length is 75 cm), reddish-brown dorsal coloration (olive-green or gray in ridleys), and usually 3 poreless scutes on the bridge (usually 4 pored scutes in ridley). Differs from hawksbill and green turtles by having the first costal in contact with the nuchal. Head is relatively large than that of other sea turtles.
Reproduction Comments: In the southeastern U.S., mating occurs late March-early June. Lays 1-9 clutches (mostly 2-6) of about 45-200 eggs (average 120) at intervals of about 2 weeks, mostly every 2-3 years. Nests mainly at night, often at high tide. In the U.S., nests late April-early September, peak in June. Eggs hatch in about 7-11 weeks (generally 8-9 weeks in the southeastern U.S.). Egg mortality may result from predation, beach erosion, invasion of clutches by plant roots, crushing by off-road vehicles, or flooding by sea water overwash or excessive rainfall. Sex of hatchlings is affected by incubation temperature, with warmer temperatures resulting in a preponderance of females and cooler temperatures producing mainly or only males. Hatchlings emerge from nest a few days after hatching, typically during darkness. Sex ratio of hatchlings and immatures in Atlantic coastal waters of U.S. is strongly biased toward females (Wibbels et al. 1991, Mrosovsky and Provancha 1992). Females are sexually mature at an average age of about 15-30 years in the southeastern U.S. (but see Bjorndal and Bolten [1988] for information on juvenile growth rates that suggests earlier age of maturity; see also Klinger and Misick, Copeia 1995:204-209, and Zug et al., Copeia 1995:484-487, for growth rate and age-at-maturity information). Females are reproductively active over a period of about 30 years (CSTC 1990). Nesting density reaches nearly 450 nests/km in some areas of Florida (Dodd 1992).
Ecology Comments: Does not form schools but local concentrations may occur at sea or near nesting beaches.

Of every thousand hatchlings, only a few are believed to survive to adulthood; this is characteristic even of stable populations (Dodd 1988). In Georgia, annual survivorship of adult females was 0.81, juveniles 0.70-0.94; see Iverson (1991) for a compilation of survivorship data. Maximum reproductive life span 32 years (Frazer 1983).

Among a wide array of animals that eat loggerhead eggs, raccoons are the most important predators on eggs in the southeastern U.S.; on some beaches they have been responsible for more than 90% of nest mortality (Dodd 1988). Organisms attached to the shell are not known to pose a significant threat.

Cold stunning in estuaries (e.g., Long Island Sound) sometimes can result in significant mortality. See Witherington and Ehrhart (1989) for information on cold stunning in Florida.

Data on heavy metal concentrations in eggs support the hypothesis that the western Atlantic population is composed of demes (Stoneburner et al. 1980).

Habitat Type: Marine
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Migrates between nesting beaches and marine waters. At least some temperate zone nesters migrate to tropical waters after the nesting season (Dodd 1990). Females that nest on east coast of Florida migrate to the Gulf of Mexico and West Indies for non-nesting periods. Some individuals in the southeastern U.S. move north in spring (e.g., see Morreale and Standora, no date), south as fall approaches; others apparently remain in Florida waters year-round. Hatchlings from the southeastern U.S. apparently enter drift lines and ride currents to Europe and the Azores and back (Dodd 1990). MtDNA data confirm that juveniles occurring in pelagic habitats of the eastern Atlantic (Azores, Madeira) are derived from nesting populations in the southeastern United States and adjacent Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (Bolten et al. 1998).

MtDNA data indicate that stranded individuals along foraging habitat in the northeastern United States from Massachusetts to Virginia originated from three demographically independent nesting areas: northeast Florida/North Carolina, southern Florida, and Quintana Roo (Mexico) (Rankin-Baransky et al. 2001).

MtDNA data indicate that young occurring along the coast of Baja California derive from nesting areas in Japan and Australia (B. Bowen et al. 1995, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 92:3731-3734); evidently trans-Pacific migrations occur, encompassing several years.

In North Carolina, within a single year, most multiple-nesting females confined their nesting activities within 4.8 km (Webster and Cook 2001).

Marine Habitat(s): Near shore, Pelagic
Estuarine Habitat(s): Bay/sound, Lagoon, River mouth/tidal river, Tidal flat/shore
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Sand/dune
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil
Habitat Comments: Open sea to more than 500 miles from shore, mostly over continental shelf, and in bays, estuaries, lagoons, creeks, and mouths of rivers; mainly warm temperate and subtropical regions not far from shorelines. Off North Carolina, loggerheads inhabited waters of 13-28 C (available range 5-32 C) (Coles and Musick 2000). Adults occupy various habitats, from turbid bays to clear waters of reefs. Subadults occur mainly in nearshore and estuarine waters. Hatchlings move directly to sea after hatching, often float in masses of sea plants (Sargassum); may remain associated with sargassum rafts perhaps for 3-5 years. In Chesapeake Bay, occurs mainly in deeper channels, usually at river mouths or in the open bay.

Nesting occurs usually on open sandy beaches above high-tide mark, seaward of well-developed dunes. Nests primarily on high-energy beaches on barrier strands adjacent to continental land masses in warm temperate and subtropical regions; steeply sloped beaches with gradually sloped offshore approaches are favored (CSTC 1990). Renesting generally occurs at the same beach or within a few km; generally returns to the same area in subsequent years if habitat remains suitable. Individuals sometimes change to different nesting beach within a single nesting season; has changed to sites up to several hundred km away (see Eckert et al. 1989). Maximum hatching success and hatchling size occur when sand moisture level is about 25%. In Florida, nesting on urban beaches was strongly correlated with the presence of tall objects (trees, buildings), which apparently shield the beach from city lights (Salmon et al. 1995). See Garmestani et al. (2000) for information on nest-site selection in southwestern Florida.

Adult Food Habits: Herbivore, Invertivore, Piscivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore, Invertivore, Piscivore
Food Comments: Eats various marine invertebrates (crustaceans, mollusks, sponges, cnidaria, echinoderms, etc.), few plants; also fish (carrion or slow-moving species). Horseshoe crabs are preferred prey in Chesapeake Bay. Spider crabs and rock crabs were important prey at Long Island, New York (Copeia 1993:1176-1180). Adults forage primarily on the bottom (e.g., see Preen 1996, J. Herpetol. 30:94-96), also take jellyfish from surface. Young feed on prey (e.g., gastropods, fragments of crustaceans and sargassum) concentrated at the surface.
Adult Phenology: Circadian
Immature Phenology: Circadian
Phenology Comments: May bury in bottom mud during cold periods in some areas (e.g., Port Canaveral ship channel off eastern Florida, Gulf of California) (Dodd 1988).
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 92 centimeters
Weight: 113000 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Restoration Potential: Because so little is known loggerhead population dynamics and demography, it is difficult to assess restoration potential. However, most authors, in discussing conservation strategies, seem optimistic about the loggerhead's recovery if the ongoing population declines can be halted. Turtle excluder devices (TEDs) appear to be effective in reducing mortality associated with the shrimp fishery, improving the outlook for population recovery (Crowder et al. 1995)
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: It is impossible to protect the loggerhead throughout its life cycle due to its expansive range and wandering years at sea. However, nesting beaches can and should be protected. These beaches should be undeveloped, unlighted, virtually unused by humans, and fishing, especially shrimp trawling, should not be allowed near them, especially in the breeding season. These beaches should be carefully managed for the benefit of the loggerhead.
Management Requirements: Worldwide public awareness of plight of sea turtles needs to be improved. Frazer (1992) emphasized the primary need for clean and productive marine and coastal environments; installation of turtle excluder devices in shrimp trawl nets and use of low pressure sodium lighting on beaches were suggested as appropriate sea turtle conservation technologies, whereas headstarting, captive breeding, and hatcheries were regarded as ineffective at best.

The immediate management goal should be to stop the population decline. Although natural mortality contributes to the decline, it is not easy to manipulate. Efforts should be focused on protecting nesting habitat, nesting females, and nests, and on lowering mortality caused by humans. Specific beneficial management activities related to nesting include relocating nests threatened by erosion, restricting beach armoring, closely monitoring beach nourishment, enforcing lighting ordinances, regulating off road vehicles, and protecting nests from pedestrian traffic and beach cleaning equipment by either moving eggs to safer places or marking their presence. Disturbance of nesting females and harvest of adults and eggs should be prevented.

Lights near beaches may disorient hatchlings (Peters and Verhoeven 1994) and discourage nesting; beach lighting restrictions on nesting baches should include the entire period of darkness (Witherington et al. 1990). If lighting cannot be eliminated, low pressure sodium vapor lights may be the least disruptive to nesting turtles (Witherington 1992). Adding a low light barrier (simulating a dune or dense vegetation) improved hatchling orientation accuracy on urban beach segments exposed to lights in Florida (Salmon et al. 1995).

In addition to protection and suitable management of nesting habitat, reduction in trawl-related mortality (associated with shrimping), through the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs, required for offshore shrimpers as of July 1989), seasonal fisheries closures, and reduced tow times, are regarded as primary management needs (CSTC 1990, USFWS 1990, Crowder et al. 1994, Lewison et al. 2003). Use of TEDs by shrimp trawlers theoretically could reduce the capture of sea turtles to 3% of the rate without the TED.

TEDs are designed to be installed in shrimp-trawl gear with the purpose of releasing sea turtles and other large objects from nets without releasing shrimp. By November of 1989, six TEDs had been approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), meaning that they are able to exclude at least 97% of the sea turtles otherwise captured and retained in a control trawl without a TED. Use of TEDs should be mandated and regulated from Cape Hatteras to the Texas-Mexican border, as well as all other areas where sea turtles are known to be caught in shrimp trawls. Tow-time limits can reduce the average rate of mortality of sea turtles to a negligible point as tow time is reduced to 60 minutes or less. This can be better than TEDs for areas with a lot of debris. The recommended tow-times are vary seasonally, specifying 40 minutes in the summer and 60 minutes in the winter. Limited time/area closures for turtle "hot spots" should be considered. See NMFS (1993) for recent shrimp trawling regulations for an area off the coast of North Carolina (allow tow-time limits as an interim alternative to the use of turtle excluder devices). See NMFS (Federal Register, 19 December 1996, pp. 66933-66947) for recent amendments to regulations pertaining to the use of turtle excluder devices along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the southeastern U.S. Population models indicate that good compliance with regulations requiring TEDs year-round in all waters of the southeastern United States could allow the population to increase much faster than expected under the "seasonal offshore" regulations (Crowder et al. 1994).

Efforts should be made to avoid sea turtle entrainment in power plant water intakes. Additionally, the use of explosives to remove oil rigs should be prohibited until more is known about its affect on loggerheads.



Effort is needed in informing and educating the public on minimizing disturbance to nesting turtles, protecting nests, and rescuing disorientated hatchlings. Mitchell (1991) noted the importance of public education in reducing mortality caused by humans.

In some areas, predator control may be needed to combat raccoons and other predators whose coastal populations are abnormally high due to food resources being augmented by human refuse. Wire-mesh predator (e.g., raccoon) exclosures around nests have been used in some areas (e.g., Canaveral National Seashore) to enhance reproductive success (1994 End. Sp. Tech. Bull. 19(2):16). However, in Florida, Mroziak et al. (2000) found that predator exclosure cages failed to protect nests and may have attracted them; the authors concluded that reducing predator populations is more effective than using cages to protect nests. See Matthews and Moseley (1990) for examples of interagency cooperation in protecting nesting areas and reducing egg loss to predators. Elimination/control of feral livestock on barrier islands may allow increased production of hatchlings (Shoop et al. 1985).

Public purchase of undeveloped beaches may be effective in providing prolonged protection of turtles and their habitat. Available lands should be protected before they are lost to development interests. In Florida, 16 km of undeveloped beach from Melbourne Beach to Wabasso Beach is available and should be protected as this is a tremendously important nesting area from a global perspective. Also, the establishment of a marine park at Rancho Nuevo in Mexico would be beneficial.

Headstarting and captive breeding should remain research tools but should not be used as substitutes for other conservation measures. Eggs relocated to polystyrene incubators have higher hatching success than do eggs in undisturbed nests or eggs relocated to other beach sites (Wyneken et al. 1988). See McGehee (1990) for information on egg incubation procedures. See Mrosovsky and Benabib (1990) for an evaluation of methods for sexing hatchlings.

See Dodd (1992) for protection recommendations for Florida.

See recovery plan: Marine Turtle Recovery Team (1984). See also "Recovery plan for U.S. Pacific populations of the loggerhead turtle (CARETTA CARETTA)" (NMFS 1998). See USFWS (1998) for detailed information on management and recovery, especially for populations in Florida.

See Dodd (1988) for further discussion of management strategies.

Monitoring Requirements: Monitoring of sea turtles is not an easy task. Currently, the only way of keeping track of individuals over a long period of time is by tagging the hatchlings after they emerge or tagging the females on nesting beaches. A complicating factor is that the tags are readily lost.

Monitoring of nesting populations can be achieved through aerial and ground surveys of the nesting grounds. This can indicate population trends if carried out over a long period of time; usually at least a decade is required to acquire adequate data.

Management Research Needs: An enlargement of tagging programs and the creation of new ones, paying special attention to the problem of tag loss, will help in gaining much-needed population data. The ecology and movements of hatchlings and young need to be investigated.

Research on the effects and prevalence of cold stunning should be carried out. Improved resuscitation techniques of comatose turtles should be developed.

Accurate postmortem techniques need to be developed to determine the role of plastic ingestion on turtle deaths, and documentation is needed of the extent of the problem. Also, information is needed on the effects of petroleum ingestion and fouling.

Detailed examination of the potential of shrimping in fishing zones and times of the year when damage to turtle populations would be minimal without TED or tow- time restrictions is needed. Improved TEDs should be developed and new alternatives explored. The effectiveness of tow-time limitations needs to be documented. More information is needed on the impact of groundfish trawling, set-net and long-line fishing, gill nets, and pound-net fishing.

The complex effects of artificial protection of early life stages of sea turtles needs to be determined.

Population/Occurrence Delineation
Help
Group Name: Sea Turtles (Cheloniidae and Dermochelyidae)

Use Class: Adult foraging area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Reliable observation of multiple adults in an area that supports productive populations of appropriate food organisms. Multiple years of information should be used to reliably identify significant, persistent occurrences.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance refers to known areas of concentrated foraging activity. In most cases, occurrences should not be extensive areas such as the entirety of Long Island Sound or Chesapeake Bay but rather portions of such areas that stand out as strongly meeting the occurrence criteria.

Analyses of mitochondrial DNA variation have increased our understanding of the phylogenetic relationships among certain populations of sea turtles and have allowed the recognition of some evolutionarily distinctive units. However, available information on genetics, dispersion, and movement patterns of most sea turtle populations generally is insufficient to determine biologically meaningful separation distances for the different kinds of occurrences covered by the specifications. The separation distances used here do not attempt to identify biologically distinct populations but rather are arbitrary values that attempt to identify relatively distinct geographic areas that have frequent or concentrated activity and that are of practical size for conservation use. Additionally, these specifications assume that it is best to have uniform occurrence standards for all sea turtle species, placing greater emphasis on the general similarity of their life history patterns than on specific biological differences among species.

Foraging home range sizes of individual hawksbill turtles in the West Indies were 1.96-49.5 sq km and were positively correlated with average water depth (Horrocks et al. 2001).

Date: 20Oct2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Hibernaculum
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Reliable observation of multiple dormant individuals. Multiple years of information should be used to reliably identify significant, persistent occurrences.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance refers to known concentrations of dormant individuals. In most cases, occurrences should not be extensive areas such as the Atlantic coast of Florida but rather portions of such areas that stand out as strongly meeting the occurrence criteria.

Analyses of mitochondrial DNA variation have increased our understanding of the phylogenetic relationships among certain populations of sea turtles and have allowed the recognition of some evolutionarily distinctive units. However, available information on genetics, dispersion, and movement patterns of most sea turtle populations generally is insufficient to determine biologically meaningful separation distances for the different kinds of occurrences covered by the specifications. The separation distances used here do not attempt to identify biologically distinct populations but rather are arbitrary values that attempt to identify relatively distinct geographic areas that have frequent or concentrated activity and that are of practical size for conservation use. Additionally, these specifications assume that it is best to have uniform occurrence standards for all sea turtle species, placing greater emphasis on the general similarity of their life history patterns than on specific biological differences among species.

Date: 20Oct2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Juvenile foraging area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Reliable observation of multiple juveniles in an area that supports productive populations of appropriate food organisms. Multiple years of information should be used to reliably identify significant, persistent occurrences.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance refers to known areas of concentrated foraging activity. In most cases, occurrences should not be extensive areas such as the entirety of Long Island Sound or Chesapeake Bay but rather portions of such areas that stand out as strongly meeting the occurrence criteria.

Analyses of mitochondrial DNA variation have increased our understanding of the phylogenetic relationships among certain populations of sea turtles and have allowed the recognition of some evolutionarily distinctive units. However, available information on genetics, dispersion, and movement patterns of most sea turtle populations generally is insufficient to determine biologically meaningful separation distances for the different kinds of occurrences covered by the specifications. The separation distances used here do not attempt to identify biologically distinct populations but rather are arbitrary values that attempt to identify relatively distinct geographic areas that have frequent or concentrated activity and that are of practical size for conservation use. Additionally, these specifications assume that it is best to have uniform occurrence standards for all sea turtle species, placing greater emphasis on the general similarity of their life history patterns than on specific biological differences among species.

Date: 20Oct2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Nesting area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more nesting individuals or nests with eggs.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Analyses of mitochondrial DNA variation have increased our understanding of the phylogenetic relationships among certain populations of sea turtles and have allowed the recognition of some evolutionarily distinctive units. However, available information on genetics, dispersion, and movement patterns of most sea turtle populations generally is insufficient to determine biologically meaningful separation distances for the different kinds of occurrences covered by the specifications. The separation distances used here do not attempt to identify biologically distinct populations but rather are arbitrary values that attempt to identify relatively distinct geographic areas that have frequent or concentrated activity and that are of practical size for conservation use. Additionally, these specifications assume that it is best to have uniform occurrence standards for all sea turtle species, placing greater emphasis on the general similarity of their life history patterns than on specific biological differences among species.

Nesting populations on separate islands or mainland areas within the separation distance should be treated as parts of the same occurrence. However, each distinct nesting location can be treated as a distinct sub-occurrence (sub-EO) or source feature for which specific data can be recorded.

Date: 26Apr2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
Help
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
Help
Authors/Contributors
Help
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 06Jul2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Jackson, D. R., and G. Hammerson
Management Information Edition Date: 12Nov2003
Management Information Edition Author: DRASEN, STACY L., AND G. HAMMERSON
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 05Nov2003
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
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NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/birdDistributionmapsmetadatav1.pdf.

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/mammalsDistributionmetadatav1.pdf.

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